The Lute Player - Harold Bindloss - ebook

The Lute Player ebook

Harold Bindloss

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Kings sometimes get bored too, and they want diversity. After all, they have everything they want. Similarly, our main character, the king, wanted to leave the comfort zone and went on a journey, leaving his wife. However, it can be said that the pudding quickly came to an end and he goes to prison. The king sends a message to his wife, where he asks him to disguise himself as a boy and save him.

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Liczba stron: 378

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Contents

CHAPTER I. BLAKE’S PIANO

CHAPTER II. THE DRAWING-OFFICE

CHAPTER III. NETHERHALL

CHAPTER IV. THE CALL

CHAPTER V. KIT PLAYS UP

CHAPTER VI. KIT TAKES A KNOCK

CHAPTER VII. EVELYN CONQUERS

CHAPTER VIII. KIT TUNES HIS FIDDLE

CHAPTER IX. THE ROAD TO THE WEST

CHAPTER X. A REST BY THE WAY

CHAPTER XI. THE ROAD FORKS

CHAPTER XII. KIT PLAYS FOR HIS SUPPER

CHAPTER XIII. THE COOK’S MUSICIAN

CHAPTER XIV. THE WATER CURE

CHAPTER XV. KIT MAKES PROGRESS

CHAPTER XVI. KIT GOES VISITING

CHAPTER XVII. LOST LAKE

CHAPTER XVIII. MRS. AUSTIN MEDDLES

CHAPTER XIX. KIT TAKES HIS CUE

CHAPTER XX. AUSTIN’S UNDERSTUDY

CHAPTER XXI. JASPER EXPERIMENTS

CHAPTER XXII. MRS. HAIGH REVIEWS HER PLANS

CHAPTER XXIII. BLAKE’S CONFESSION

CHAPTER XXIV. A STOLEN EXCURSION

CHAPTER XXV. LEDWARD’S PRESENT

CHAPTER XXVI. THE BREAKING STRAIN

CHAPTER XXVII. JASPER WAITS

CHAPTER XXVIII. KIT GOES AHEAD

CHAPTER XXIX. THE STORM

CHAPTER XXX. ALISON STEALS AWAY

CHAPTER XXXI. WHINNYATES FARM

CHAPTER XXXII. KIT CLAIMS HIS REWARD

CHAPTER XXXIII. JASPER WINS

CHAPTER I. BLAKE’S PIANO

The evening was calm, and the window at Blake’s flat by the river mouth was open. Kit Carson, standing with his back against the curtains, felt the rather shabby room was homelike, and for long he had not known a home. When he got a holiday he went to Netherhall, and after the drawing-office, he liked to carry a gun across the moors; but the big house at the dale head had not the charm that marked Blake’s cheap flat.

Kit, however, thought the room less shabby than usual. For one thing, Mrs. Blake had got a new rug and the soft green harmonized with the brown stained boards. Then a new cottage piano occupied a corner, and a water-colour drawing, Kit’s present to Mabel Blake, was on the wall. Perhaps its purchase was something of an extravagance, but Kit was extravagant and Mabel was his pal’s wife.

Kit felt the charm that marked the flat was really Mabel’s. She was plucky and cheerful, although her fight was hard. Blake was a sober fellow, but when he married he had debts, and his pay, like Kit’s, was small. Kit was his groomsman, and at the wedding had rather thought to lose his friend. Instead, he had got another.

Mrs. Blake, carrying a tray, came in, and when Blake took her load, gave Kit a happy smile.

“The pennies for the meter did not run out, and my birthday feast is served,” she said, and balancing on an arched foot, as if she meant to dance, indicated her dress. “But how do you like my new clothes?”

Kit studied her. Mabel Blake was short and light; her figure was boyish and Kit knew her boyishly alert and happy.

“I can’t judge the material, but the lines are good. One gets a sense of balance and poise, which, I think, is not altogether the dressmaker’s art. Anyhow, you can dance, and if the shipyard company goes broke, we’ll try our luck on the road. You will dance for crowded houses and I will play the lute. Tom, perhaps, might be business manager.”

Mabel laughed and Blake grinned, for he knew the others knew his money went.

“Isn’t the lute rather out-of-date?” he inquired.

“Ah,” said Kit, “there’s its attraction! The troubadours used the lute and your wife has inherited the joy and confidence people knew in the old spacious days.”

They sat down at the little round table, and Mabel, glancing at Kit, rather thought he ascribed to her qualities that were properly his. Kit, like her husband, had a post in the drawing-office at the shipbuilding yard. He was thin but athletic, and as a rule his eyes twinkled. Mrs. Blake knew him generous and romantic, but he was a first-class draughtsman and made progress at the office. In the meantime, Kit, with frank satisfaction, used his knife and fork. At Netherhall one dined ceremoniously and wore evening clothes, but one did not get food like the suppers Mabel cooked on the gas stove. By and by she indicated the piano.

“Sometimes you’re not very keen, Kit. For example, I was forced to point out I’d got new clothes and ask for a compliment; and now it looks as if you had not remarked all Tom’s extravagance. But perhaps you want to be polite?”

“I remarked the piano, and after supper I’ll try it. Just now I’m very happily occupied. All the same, I’m glad to see Tom’s luck has turned.”

“The piano’s not yet ours and we’ll talk about it again,” said Blake.

By and by Blake and Kit carried off the plates, and when they came back Kit turned down the light and signing the others to the window, pulled the curtain along the rod. The flat was at the top of a tall block, the night was fine, and one looked down on rows of houses and the dark river. On the other bank blast-lamp flames tossed, and the trembling illumination touched skeleton ships. Hammers rang with a rhythmic beat; and at the top of the steep slope steelworks’ engines throbbed. In the background a pillar of fire, intense and white, was reflected by a cloud. The pillar sank and vanished, and by contrast all was dark.

“Janions’ converter,” said Kit. “If they roll us the plates as they engaged, you ought soon to run the Mariposa down the launching ways. I don’t know if her boiler will be ready.”

“Then you’re not satisfied about the circulation?” Blake inquired, and Kit thought his interest rather keen.

“We are nearly satisfied. Colvin’s hurrying me, and when Mabel has had enough I must go back to the office: the tube-shop foreman wants some particulars. Anyhow, we mustn’t bore Mabel. I like your window, madam. It commands a moving view.”

“The fires and grime of industry?” said Mabel and laughed. “I begin to doubt if I know you, Mr. Carson. Sometimes you’re the minstrel you talk about, and sometimes a shipbuilder.”

A whistle shrieked on a high note and dropped to an harmonious chord; a ruby beam moved across the trembling reflections. Then a funnel and a vague, long hull stole through the shipyard smoke. The beam faded, the hull was foreshortened and the ship went round a bend. The wave she threw off beat the bank and melted in the dark.

“The Negapatam, bound for Singapore and the Malay seas,” said Kit. “But I expect you have had enough.”

“Why must you go back to the office on my birthday?” Mrs. Blake inquired.

“Well, you see, I get my pay for building ships, and the Mariposa will soon be waiting for her fast steaming, anti-incrustation boiler. Our boiler; the very latest thing of the water-tube type!”

“What is a water-tube boiler? And why are you so keen about the Mariposa’s?”

“In an ordinary marine boiler the flame goes through the flues; in the water-tube pattern the water circulates in tubes and the flame is outside. The type has some drawbacks I mustn’t bother you about, but it steams fast and carries a heavy pressure. Well, a foreign Government requires four small, swift, shallow boats for tropical rivers and has ordered two; one from us, and one from the opposition yard.”

Mrs. Blake nodded. “The Mariposa’s yours; if she beats the other boat, you will build the lot?”

“Colvin hopes we’ll do so. The rivers she’ll navigate are muddy, and in a water-tube boiler mud is awkward. We have been forced to modify our standard pattern, but if we get the results we expect, we reckon on beating the other boat. The improvements cannot be patented, and in consequence we don’t talk about our plans.”

“But if the Mariposa wins, your competitors may bribe somebody to study her boiler.”

“It’s possible,” Kit agreed. “All the same, the tubes are covered by a casing, and if the opposition did find out something useful, we’d have begun to build the fleet. Now you know all about it and we have done with shipbuilding. Let’s try the new piano!”

He went to the piano and began to play. The others knew his talent, but they thought the music strange and melancholy. Yet the air was haunting.

“It is not piano music,” Blake remarked.

“I expect it was first written for the guitar; Spanish music’s Moorish music. Don’t you hear the strings and the wind in the sand? Can’t you picture the camel-dung fires in front of the black tents, and smell the curling smoke? But I’ll try a song. It’s about the King of Spain who lost Gibraltar, but did not lose all the fellow lost who lost his heart. Do you hear the guitars tinkle under the lattice window?”

He shut the piano and swung the revolving stool. “Well, the instrument’s jolly good and I hope it will soon be yours.”

“The company stipulates for punctual payments,” Blake remarked.

“If you can stand for my bringing my fiddle and Mabel will play, I’ll meet the next instalment. I’ve got some fresh music, but my landlady’s restive and I imagine she means to be firm.”

“Practise when you like,” said Mabel. “You have talent, Kit, and I think you know our house is yours.”

“I know you are very kind, and Tom’s a first-class sort. When I joined up at the yard I was raw and trustful, but he saw me through the boiler shop and steered me past some awkward pitfalls. At the yard, he’s old Tom and famous for his stanchness and soberness. Then when he married I got another friend and now your house is home. Well, I hope your birthdays will be happy and numerous. Your faithful servant, ma’m!”

Mabel turned her head, as if she listened, and got up.

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